March Madness is here – but what does that even mean? Whether you’re new to basketball altogether or you prefer to focus on the NBA, the NCAA’s latest basketball tournament may be new to you. The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is one of the organization’s greatest events, giving basketball fans something to watch for the month of March.
Today we have a brief explanation of what this tournament is, how it works, why it’s called March Madness, and why so many people have fun with it! Many people have fun by placing bets, if their state allows it, in which case you should check out March Madness odds.
To better understand what March Madness is, let’s go back to the beginning. The first March Madness – back then just called the 1939 NCAA Basketball Tournament – was run by a different organization called the NABC. Starting on March 17th, the championship game took place on March 27th ten days and eight games later.
The winners were the Oregon Webfoots (later renamed to their nickname – the Ducks) with a 46-33 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes, who would go on to become one of the more prolific collegiate teams at these NCAA tournaments. The semifinalists were the Oklahoma Sooners and the Villanova Wildcats, while the Brown Bears, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Texas Longhorns, and Utah State Aggies never made it to the Final Four.
That’s right, there were only eight teams in that first 1939 tournament. In the modern March Madness tournament, there are 64 teams competing for the coveted Final Four and, after that, the top spot.
So how did this expansion happen? Well, by the 1950s, the roster had doubled to 16 teams and stayed stagnant over the next decade. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the modern 64-team format tournament was implemented as part of the NCAA event.
In 2001, the Mountain West Conference joined the NCAA’s Division I. This technically made the 65 teams but they added a game to balance things out. They did it again in 2011 too, where three more teams were included, so three games were added for each one.
So, when did it start being called “March Madness?” Like many overhauls to what we know as the modern NCAA Division 1 tournament, this came in the early 1980s after the tournament had been restructured.
In the 1982 tournament, former sports writer-turned-broadcaster for CBS used the term when describing the event. As you can probably tell – it stuck. Ever since, the tournament has been referred to as March Madness, especially in marketing and gambling circles.
A big part of March Madness is One Shining Moment, the song that you’ll hear played after each tournament. The song was written by David Barrett in 1986 for the Super Bowl (XXI, specifically) but it never aired. Instead, CBS aired it for the following televised event, which happened to be the NCAA Division 1 tournament of 1987. When played, it plays alongside the recorded moments from the entire event. Through this, everybody relives the best and worst moments of the event, interspersed with fan reactions and other interesting interactions that happened during the tournament.
Since starting in 1939, five teams have made appearances in over half of the 80+ tournaments played so far.
- The Kentucky Wildcats, who first debuted in 1942 and have appeared over 60 times. They have also won 129 NCAA tournament games, averaging 2.2 wins per appearance. They have won 8 NCAA championships, too.
- The North Carolina Tar Heels debuted in 1941 and have appeared 51 times. They also have 126 NCAA tournament game wins for 2.5 wins per appearance average. As for championships, they have won 6.
- The Kansas Jayhawks, who are the oldest of the five best teams, started playing with the NCAA in 1940 and have appeared in 49 events. They have won 108 NCAA tournament games, with just 3 championship wins.
- The UCLA Bruins first appeared in the NCAA in 1950, where they have appeared 49 times, won across 101 tournament games, and have the most championship wins at 11.
- Lastly, the Duke Blue Devils started latest in 1955, where they have made good time by appearing in 43 events. They have won 114 tournament games and won 5 championship games as a result.
With those numbers tallied, the UCLA Bruins are the most effective so far, having the most championship wins.
That’s our explanation of what March Madness is and how it has become the phenomenon that it is today. Now, every year, March Madness is an important date on the calendar of many aspiring basketball players, basketball fans, and avid basketball commentators.
It shows the best of the NCAA’s Division 1, who often field teams with players that stick with B-ball and move to the NBA to advance their career. As such, it’s a great way to find some early talent for the NBA before the draft season takes place.